The Next Invasion?
By Collin Kelley
Every few years, America gets a new “British Invasion” – a clutch of artists from the UK who storm the Billboard charts or become overnight sensations on YouTube (and I’m not including Susan Boyle). Over the last few years, Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Mika, Gossip, Adele, La Roux and Florence + The Machine have made inroads into stateside consciousness.
In December, the BBC announced its Sound of 2010 poll, a yearly list of up-and-coming musicians selected by UK industry experts to be the “next big thing.” This year’s list was decidedly British (last year’s list included American acts Lady Gaga and Kid Cudi), so chances are you’ve never heard of any of them.
In the long list of 15 acts, three stood out:
Just after the new year, Goulding was crowned as the one to watch in the BBC poll and won the Brit Awards Critics’ Choice for 2010. Not surprisingly, Goulding has the most commercial appeal. At age 23, she’s already being compared to Kate Bush and Bjork (the fallback comparison to any female British vocalist who sings in an upper register) and was snapped up by Polydor for her debut album out in March.
What Goulding has going for her is that she writes her own music and plays a number of instruments, which puts her head and shoulders above the recent crop of lip-syncing reality stars (I’m looking at you Heidi Montag). Goulding’s music has enough pop sensibility to break into the American market, and she’s also easy on the eyes.
Her first two singles, “Under the Sheets” and “Starry Eyed” are propulsive, electronic affairs that are undeniably catchy. With the acclaim being heaped upon her in the UK, I expect she’ll get a big push in the states soon, so remember you heard it here first.
Hurts is the Manchester-based duo of Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson, who aren’t afraid to flaunt their influences – namely Pet Shop Boys, Human League and Tears for Fears. One listen to their debut single “Wonderful Life” and you’ll be instantly transported back to 1986. In the video, vocalist Theo has Neil Tennant’s detached aloofness and Adam stands rigid behind a keyboard as a dancer (who looks oddly like Stockard Channing) grinds around them.
The 80s have never gone out of style in the UK, but whether Hurts’ lush, synth pop can crack the American market is doubtful. The boys are too androgynous and the music is a little too artsy-fartsy to crack the stranglehold that rap, frat rock and manufactured auto-bots like Ke$ha [Editors note: we at soldout have decided her name is prounounced "Keishadollarsign", all one word] have on the charts. However, if you want a tasty slice of retro, Hurts is a good band to explore.
That leaves Delphic, another Manchester band that has been big on the festival circuit in the UK and has been tipped by the indie music press to be the second-coming of New Order. There is something to be said for that comparison, especially with songs like “Doubt” and “This Momentary,” where guitars, keyboards, and multi-layered vocal loops all meld into sonic bliss.
The music is dark and dramatic, while the boys – James Cook (vocals and bass), Matt Cocksedge (guitar) and Richard Boardman (synths) – are rather a bland looking lot. As long as the keep making music that sounds like their fantastic debut album Acolyte, they could wear bags on their heads for all I care.
Still, I’m not sure Delphic is ready for American primetime either. I think they’ll definitely be indie darlings, but like Editors, they are just a little to quirky for mass appeal. And maybe it’s better that way.